In response to questions prompted by Katherine Kersen's recent columns on Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), I decided to visit the school myself.
What I learned during a tour late last month is that none of Kersten's concerns that the charter school is promoting religion in violation of a state law that prohibits public schools from doing so is valid.
What I did see was excellent teachers hard at work in the classroom focused on improving student achievement. I saw engaged students of different religious and cultural backgrounds learning reading, math, government and science. I spoke with parents, teachers and administrators who all stressed their high standards for TIZA students.
While an outsider, or someone like Kersten who is trying to validate a predetermined conclusion, might be tempted to brand Tarek ibn Ziyad as an "Islamic School" because it leases space from the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, the school, like other charter schools in Minnesota that lease space from churches, is a separate entity. It does comply with federal law that requires all schools to accommodate a student's right to practice his or her religion. And unlike other charter schools that have faced financial and other administrative challenges, the school was recognized with a 2008 School Finance Award from the Minnesota Department of Education for its "sound fiscal health and financial management policies."
Kersten's reckless journalistic standards have diminished this paper's credibility. Worse, they have threatened the safety of the children and staff at the school, which has been forced to take extra security measures in the wake of recent death threats. While I value a broad range of opinions from a variety of perspectives, I value the facts even more. Kersten's gross distortion of the facts in this case should compel Star Tribune management to ask for her resignation.
Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville
Chairwoman, House K-12 Finance Division